Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 20, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 381-382: March 19, 2019

Episode 381 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate update and some PR notes; counting bikes, proposed Cycling Safety Ordinance; the misuse of surveys; and Better Buses? Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 382 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 19, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 19, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Plan E and the City Auditor; nominations for Outstanding City Employee awards; Faux Retail; Cambridgeside Galeria Re-Envisioned. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 18, 2019

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Pre-Spring Fling – Select Items from the March 18, 2019 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at what seems comment-worthy:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the bi-annual City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey for 2018. [Manager’s message] [aggregate responses] [longer report]

The wording of the questions and the meaning of the choices can have a tremendous effect on surveys such as this. For example, if the question "What do you think is the single most important issue facing the City of Cambridge today—the one that affects you and your family the most?" simply lists one option as "Affordable housing/housing", then it’s not at all surprising that this will be the overwhelming first choice. However, does this mean access to subsidized housing or, more likely, does this mean that most renters feel that their rent is higher than they would like it to be and that most buyers feel that purchase costs are much higher than they would like it to be? This is an important distinction because this survey may be used to justify only the expansion of subsidized housing without addressing what most people actually meant by their response in the survey.

Order #2. Reappointment of James Monagle as City Auditor.   Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

Good choice. Do it.


Bikes, Buses, Scooters & other Transportation:

Manager’s Agenda #5. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-142, regarding a report on efforts to educate cyclists about riding safety and sharing the road especially at intersections.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff about updating the bike data count chart, along with other data tables and charts, in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan to reflect 2016 and 2018 data.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant staff to report to the City Council on how the data collected from the Broadway Eco-Display is used to inform the City’s transportation planning efforts and to address the possibility of installing additional Eco-Display counters at the highest trafficked bicycle locations to provide more comprehensive information about bike use and other vehicles such as scooters.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Order #12. That the City Manager is requested to confer with City Staff and report back to the City Council on the status of any micro-mobility pilot programs or partnerships in Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley

I’ll be interested in seeing the requested data (with appropriate documentation to support its validity). I have come to believe that when you start factoring in such things as weather, the need to run multiple errands, electric vehicles and micro-cars, TNCs, and various micro-mobility options, as well as age/condition, we may conclude that Cambridge is not actually located in The Netherlands and that the choice of bicycle transportation may have a natural upper limit no matter how many flex-posts you bolt to the road.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 26, 2019 to discuss the MBTA’s Better Bus Project report as it relates to proposed changes to bus lines and service throughout Cambridge.

If Better Bus means little more than Cutting Corners then there’s not a whole lot to like here. I do, however, think that folding the CT1 into the #1 Bus with more frequent service is a good idea, but only if they can finally solve the problem of Bus Bunching.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 27, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title Twelve entitled “Streets, Sidewalks and Public Places” by adding a new Chapter 12.22 entitled “Cycling Safety Ordinance”.

The key question I would have asked is whether or not this proposal unnecessary restricts the ability of the City Manager and City Departments from using good judgment and appropriate discretion in deciding how future road projects should proceed. As near as I can tell, everything that was and is on the table came from just one lobbying group. Then again, that seems to be the way this City Council operates.


Order #5. Thanks to Mayor McGovern and all members of the Harm Reduction Commission and the Cambridge Opioid Working Group for their leadership and service and that a Human Services and Veterans Committee hold a future hearing to receive an update on the recommendations in these reports and on efforts in Cambridge to address substance use disorder and the opioid crisis.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

Prelude to the Mayor enabling a "safe injection site" to be located inevitably in Central Square to supplement the existing Needle Exchange and other sites enabling IV drug users to flock to Central Square. Wouldn’t it be great if we instead concentrated on things that helped to attract families with children to Central Square?


Housing-Related:

Order #8. City Council endorsement of the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

This Order seems to be setting up for the case to be made that current Cambridge zoning is too restrictive and must be changed to allow for significantly increased density. Note the sponsors. It is curious how the extremely strict zoning restrictions of the suburbs and exurbs are somehow being invoked to make the case that Cambridge, with one of the highest population densities and highest proportions of subsidized housing in Massachusetts, is somehow comparable to Weston. Mendacity seems to be the new official language of Cambridge.

Order #13. City Council support for fully funding the Section 8 Housing Choice Tenant-Based Voucher Program.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Carlone

Good idea and more to the point than what is otherwise being discussed these days.

Order #14. That the City Manager direct the appropriate City staff to examine the need and possibility of neighborhood preference in Cambridge in the short and long-terms.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Zondervan

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Siddiqui, transmitting the submission of the Mayor’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Tenant Displacement Feb 24, 2018 meeting minutes.

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Zondervan, transmitting a memorandum regarding "Affordable Housing Overlay Initial Thoughts".

I’ll be adding more than just my "initial thoughts" on this soon. This juggernaut really needs to be stopped and reconsidered.


Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui, Chair of the Economic Development and University Relations Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 13, 2019 to receive an update on the progress to date on the retail strategy plan and vacant storefront initiative.

Faux Retail is apparently The Future. – RW

Update: Councillor Toomey exercised his Charter Right to delay all of the City Manager’s Agenda until the next Council meeting (March 25). The only other consequential thing in the meeting was the back-and-forth posturing of Councillors Zondervan, Siddiqui, Mallon, Carlone, Devereux, and McGovern over Councillor Zondervan’s "initial thoughts" memo on the Public Housing Expansion Initiative, a.k.a. the "Affordable Housing Overlay". Vice Mayor Devereux handled herself rather well. Councillor Mallon argued in favor having her own Maple Ave. be a preferred site for new Public Housing. Councillors Kelley, Simmons, and Toomey wisely remained silent.

March 13, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 379-380: March 12, 2019

Episode 379 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Fresh Pond/Mt. Auburn walk invitation; Housing Overlay proposal and Housing Committee meeting. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 380 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 12, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: New City Council candidates; national politics; PR election realities; Zero Waste Plan; upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 10, 2019

AAA Inman Zero Waste Outstanding Dogs – Catching Up on the Cambridge News (March 10, 2019)

Zero Wast CambridgeZero Waste Master Plan Draft open for comment

For more than a year, the City has been developing a Zero Waste Master Plan. The City is seeking your feedback on the Draft Plan and the six Appendices. Visit CambridgeMA.Gov/ZWMP to review and submit comments until March 15, 2019. The final Zero Waste Master Plan will be made public by April 4.

Feb 28 – The City of Cambridge has embarked on a path to Zero Waste to build upon its current waste management system and programs. The development of a Zero Waste Master Plan (ZWMP) and strategy is intended to assist with achieving the City’s goals of reducing waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The public is invited to review a draft version of this plan and send comments through March 15, 2019, to recycle@cambridgema.gov.

The recommendations developed for the ZWMP will help support the Department of Public Works’ (DPW) guiding principles of providing high-quality public services, protecting and supporting the health of employees and the public, and managing costs and reducing trash. Learn more about how the City’s 25,000 tons of trash, recycling and composting is sorted – what’s landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted – in Appendix 1 of the Zero Waste Master Plan.

The Zero Waste Master Plan (ZWMP) will guide the City in:
• Meeting trash reduction goals of 30% reduction by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050 from 2008 waste levels.
• Maintaining high quality public services to manage waste disposal
• Maximize operational efficiency
• Protecting employee health and safety
• Evaluating costs for managing waste
• Exploring the impact of waste reduction on GHG emission goals

The ZWMP will also coordinate with the efforts of the citywide comprehensive plan, Envision Cambridge.

For more information, visit CambridgeMA.gov/zerowastemasterplan.

Upcoming Waste Events
Fri. 3/15: Last day to comment on Draft Zero Waste Master Plan.
Mon. 3/25: MassRecycle Summit, Sheraton Hotel Framingham.
Thurs. 4/4: New recycling program begins–TBA in March.
Sat. 4/6: Hazardous Waste Day for Cambridge residents, near 125 Munroe St.
Sat 5/18: Fix-It Clinic at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway.


All Cambridge Dog Licenses Expire March 31, 2019

Dog LicenseState law requires that all dogs over 6 months have a current dog license. The dog license period in Cambridge, MA runs from April 1 of the current year until March 31 of the following year.

Cambridge residents can apply for or renew their dog’s license online or download the paper application to renew via mail or in person, following instructions on the respective form.

In order to obtain a dog license, you will need:

  • A rabies vaccination certificate with an expiration date or copy of medical records with rabies expiration date;
  • Proof of spay or neuter (if not shown before), actual surgery certificate or if noted on Rabies/Medical History;
  • FEES: Spayed Female/Neutered Male ($10); Un-Spayed Female/Un-Neutered Male ($30)
  • If licensing by mail, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope;
  • Please make check or money order payable to City of Cambridge, or payments can also be made in cash. Credit cards are not accepted in the office, but can be used for online renewals.

The Cambridge Animal Commission is located at 344 Broadway and its hours of operation are: Monday – Friday, 8:30am-7pm.

For more information, please contact Cambridge Animal Commission at 617-349-4076 or animalcommission@cambridgema.gov.


City of Cambridge Announces Inman Square Loyalty Program
The Program Encourages Patrons to Support Local Inman Square Businesses During Construction

The Cambridge Community Development Department will launch the Inman Square Loyalty Program on Friday, March 1. The Loyalty Program is designed to encourage Cambridge residents, employees, and visitors to continue supporting local businesses in the Inman Square business district during the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project construction period. Those who participate in the Inman Square Loyalty Program will be entered in a monthly raffle.

To participate in the Inman Square Loyalty Program:

  • Pick up an Inman Square Loyalty Card at participating Inman Square businesses.
  • Make six purchases at participating businesses each month and get your Loyalty Card stamped after each transaction.
  • Return your completed Loyalty Card to drop boxes located throughout Inman Square.

The Community Development Department will select two winners at the end of each month through a raffle drawing. Winners will receive a $50.00 gift certificate to an Inman Square business of their choice. Customers are limited to submitting one completed Loyalty Card per month.

“Our local businesses are an important part of our community and I am pleased that we are piloting this new program to help encourage residents and visitors to continue patronizing businesses during the upcoming construction project,” said Louis DePasquale, City Manager. “I appreciate the close collaboration between our City departments and the local business community to make this pilot a reality.”

“The pilot Inman Square Loyalty Program is part of our efforts to mitigate City construction-related impacts for local businesses,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “Inman Square is a vibrant part of Cambridge’s retail economy, and the program encourages people to continue enjoying its diverse dining and shopping options during construction.”

The Community Development Department, Department of Public Works, and City Manager’s Office are collaborating with the East Cambridge Business Association, the Inman Square Neighborhood Association, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and Cambridge Local First to provide additional resources and programming that will support local businesses during the Inman Square Intersection Improvements Project.

“Supporting small business owners becomes even more important when they face construction projects,” said Jason Alves, Director of East Cambridge Business Association. “The Inman Square Loyalty Program will help remind people of the positive impact they can have on their community each and every time they make a decision to spend their dollars locally. It will be great to see the community get behind our businesses and win some prizes that will further support those impacted.”Inman Square Intersection

To learn more about upcoming events and resources related to Inman Square construction mitigation efforts, visit cambridgema.gov/ShopInman.

Project Update

Residents, and business owners and staff are invited to stop by a Coffee Talk to meet with City staff and contractors and ask questions related to current and upcoming construction in Inman Square.

Thursday, March 14th
9:00am-10:30am

Olé Restaurant
11 Springfield St.

Additional Coffee Talks will be held monthly throughout the project at different times and locations to accommodate as many interested neighbors as possible.

If you have questions or concerns about the Inman Square project, you may contact Kate Riley, DPW Community Relations Manager at (617) 349-4870 or kriley@cambridgema.gov. More information about the project in general, as well as the December 2018 Construction Update newsletter can be found at www.cambridgema.gov/InmanSquare.


FoundryCalling all Cambridge Neighbors!
Cambridge FOUNDRY

In 2021, a new center for the arts and STEM will open at 101 Rogers Street. The Foundry building is a historic building reuse project that will allow the Cambridge community to enjoy performances, be creative and make things, and attend workshops to learn new skills.

Join the Foundry Consortium at Abigail’s Restaurant over coffee and scones for our first discussion about what you would like to see happening at the Foundry.

Saturday, March 16, 2019
10:00am–12:00pm
Abigail’s Restaurant
291 Third Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Please RSVP by Friday, March 15, 2019. If you know someone who would be interested in joining us, please forward this email or download our flyer.


Cambridge Awarded AAA Ratings
Nations three major credit rating agencies affirm City’s status for 20th year

March 4, 2019 – The City of Cambridge has retained its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the U.S. to earn AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. Each year since 1999, the city has received these ratings from Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

“I want to acknowledge the City Council’s leadership for adopting and maintaining sound fiscal policies, and city department heads and staff for their commitment to prudently managing their budgets and programs,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “One of the many factors contributing to the city receiving these ratings is our strong and dedicated team.”

The AAA ratings are in conjunction with the city’s sale of $90.6 million in General Obligation bonds. These sales will finance capital projects such as King Open and Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex, sewer reconstruction, street and sidewalk reconstruction, and other municipal and school building design and renovations.

Over the last 20 years, the AAA rating has enabled the city to finance a variety of major capital projects at very favorable rates that, in turn, result in savings to taxpayers.

As the city undertakes a significant increase in debt issuance over the next few years to fund it’s school rebuilding program, the AAA rating will play a significant role in enabling the city to secure the most favorable interest rates. This is especially important as the city embarks on funding its third school project (Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper Schools) with an estimated cost of $250 million. Overall, including the Tobin School project, the city is projected to spend a total of $505 million for the three school projects. In addition, the bonding schedule includes significant obligations for renovations to Fire Headquarters and other city buildings.

“We take a long-term approach to our fiscal planning, and our fiscal strategies and management practices have real impacts on Cambridge taxpayers,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “We’ve built significant reserves, which in part serve as the city’s insurance policy, and our financial success is only possible because of the collaboration that occurs between the City Council and the city administration.”

Below are excerpts from the Rating Agencies reports. (Download Full Reports)

Moody’s Investors Service
Cambridge, Massachusetts (Aaa stable) benefits from a sizeable and diverse tax base that continues to grow significantly year over year. The city’s economy is driven largely by the presence of Harvard University (Aaa stable) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Aaa stable) and the impressive research and development sector. The city’s financial position is strong with very healthy liquidity and reserves that are maintained by strong fiscal management. Both the debt burden and long term liabilities for pension and OPEB are conservatively managed and will remain manageable over the near term.

Credit strengths cited include:

  • Large and diverse tax base anchored by institutional presences and robust commercial sector;
  • Healthy financial position guided by formal policies;
  • Strong fiscal management;
  • Ample operating flexibility with excess levy capacity under Proposition 2½; and
  • Expected to fully fund pension liability by 2026

Fitch Ratings
The city’s ‘AAA’ GO bond rating and Issuer Default Rating (IDR) reflect Fitch Ratings’ expectation for Cambridge to maintain a high level of financial flexibility through economic cycles, consistent with a history of strong operating performance and budget controls. The ratings further reflect the city’s wealthy and growing property tax base, moderate expenditure growth and its demonstrated ability to reduce expenditures during economic downturns.

Fitch expects long-term liabilities to remain low based on the city’s manageable capital needs, rapid principal amortization, continued growth in economic resources and a practice of fully funding actuarially determined pension contributions.

Standard & Poor’s Corporation
The rating reflects our opinion of Cambridge’s extremely strong property tax base that continues to grow within the Boston metropolitan statistical area (MSA), supporting continued positive budgetary performance that has led to improved reserves. The city has a favorable debt profile with the ability to absorb additional debt plans.

Key factors cited include management’s:

  • Conservative revenue and expenditure assumptions in the budgeting process that focus on five years of historical information;
  • Quarterly reports on budget-to-actual results and investments to the city’s finance and investment committees, respectively;
  • Long-term financial plan with credible assumptions;
  • Five-year capital plan with identified funding sources, which it is expanding to include a municipal-facilities-improvement plan;
  • Robust debt and investment policy it reviews at least annually to demonstrate adherence; and
  • Reserve policy that requires maintaining a minimum 15% of expenditures.

Nominations Sought for Outstanding City of Cambridge Employee Awards

March 8, 2019 – Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking nominations for the 2019 Outstanding City Employee Awards program which recognizes employees for exemplary performance and contributions that go above and beyond job requirements.

Cambridge city government is made up of dedicated employees who strive to provide a high level of quality services to all its citizens. The annual awards ceremony provides a special opportunity to give extra recognition to a few exemplary individuals who will be recognized at a special awards ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2019.

The Outstanding City Employee Awards are designed to recognize contributions that are above and beyond job requirements. Criteria for determining outstanding performance include:

  • Demonstrated strong leadership and a high level of commitment to the city and its residents.
  • Demonstrated outstanding customer service to the public and/or fellow employees.
  • Developed an innovative or creative solution to a problem.
  • Made superior contribution to the success of a project, completing work on time and within budget.
  • Donated significant time to activities that benefit the Cambridge community. Encouraged and valued community involvement.
  • Demonstrated an exceptional ability to work in a multicultural organization.
  • Consistently contributed to better city operations.

All City employees are eligible for nomination. Anyone who lives or works in Cambridge may nominate one or more city employees for recognition. Individuals are not limited as to how many employees s/he chooses to nominate, but must submit a separate Nomination Form or letter for each employee. An employee may not nominate her or his own supervisor or department head for recognition.

Nominations are due by Friday, April 12, 2019 and can be submitted online. Alternatively, a signed nomination letter may also be submitted in person to the Personnel Department, Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor, via fax to 617-349-4312, or email to mcarvello@cambridgema.gov.

For more information, see this story in the news section of the city’s website, CambridgeMA.gov, or contact Maryellen Carvello at mcarvello@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4300.

March 5, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 377-378: March 5, 2019

Episode 377 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 5, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 5, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Housing – Overlay proposal and background, Envision, condo conversion, and rent control; municipal election topics; defining Central Square; task forces; River Street. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 378 – Cambridge InsideOut: Mar 5, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Mar 5, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Condos continued; task forces; River Street; defining Central Square; AAA bond ratings; new Council candidates; national politics. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

March 4, 2019

Coming Attractions – March 4, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:14 am

Coming Attractions – March 4, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

March Forth!Here’s a quick look at some of the more interesting agenda items.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to adopt following further staff review and improvements to the petition language, the City Council Zoning Petition to Amend Section 4.22 "Accessory Apartments."

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to not adopt the Petition to rezone the parcel at 234 Monsignor O’Brien Highway from Residential C-1 to Business A.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to not adopt the Stormwater Separation from Flat Roofs Zoning Petition.

One thumb up, two thumbs down.

Manager’s Agenda #13. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge has retained its noteworthy distinction of being one of approximately 33 municipalities in the United States with AAA ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. [Moody’s] [S&P Global] [Fitch]

This has become an annual tradition. It comes with other annual traditions – activists expressing dismay at Cambridge’s fiscal position and elected officials using it to argue that more "free cash" should be poured into their favorite pet projects.

Order #3. City Council support of H.3118/SD.2042, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Kelley

This bill is comprised of common sense measures: a) requiring rear lights on bikes; b) mandating that motor vehicle operators MUST give a wide berth to vulnerable users (like bikes and pedestrians) when passing; c) minimizing "blind spots" for motor vehicles; d) requiring guards on trucks to minimize the likelihood of someone going under the wheels; e) reducing speed limits to 25mph on state highways in thickly settled areas and business districts. I’m not sure if the requirement of safe passing distance applies to bikes passing pedestrians, but it should.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Assessor’s Office to provide Up-To-Date Condo Conversion Data.   Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern

I am interested in this information, but most of those horses left the barn a while ago. Multi-family homes on the scale of two-family and triple-deckers were the single most effective affordable housing mechanism in Cambridge for most of the last century. As the condo craze swept through some people were able to get a piece of the action, but the mechanism for a working class family to house themselves and provide housing at affordable rents to cover the mortgage is now just a minor (but still important) part of the Cambridge housing picture. If limits on condominium conversion were ever to have happened it should have happened 20 years ago.

Order #8. City Council support of H1850: An act ensuring safe patient access to emergency care and H1346: An act removing the liability cap for malpractice resulting in serious injury or death.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui

I’m all for H1850: An act ensuring safe patient access to emergency care. As for the other bill, there are good reasons for liability caps, and no amount of money will ever bring back someone who has died.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 30, 2019 to discuss a petition filed by Joseph T. Maguire, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating the Grand Junction Pathway Overlay District adjacent to the Grand Junction Railroad right-of-way between Binney and Cambridge Streets.

Based on the report, this petition may not float. The matter remains in committee.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes of the 5th meeting on Feb 7, 2019 of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force. [Full Report]

The text of the report is reproduced here purely for informational purposes. However, I continue to ponder the question of what constitutes acting affirmatively on behalf of a constituency and just plain old political patronage. Should artists and musicians be provided advantages not available to other constituencies who are also struggling to live and work in and around Cambridge? – Robert Winters

February 27, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 375-376: Feb 26, 2019

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut — Tags: , , , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:18 am

Episode 375 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 26, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 26, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Tree Removal Moratorium vote and politics; proposal for a total ban on all leaf blowers. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 376 – Cambridge InsideOut: Feb 26, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Feb 26, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Trucks & Free Speech; proposed MBTA fare increase, tradeoffs, Uber/Lyft; The Return of Lodging Houses?; home ownership & responsibility; acoustic music licensing. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

February 24, 2019

Not So Great Expectations – Feb 25, 2019 City Council Agenda

Filed under: 2019 election,Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:57 pm

Not So Great Expectations – Feb 25, 2019 City Council Agenda

Great ExpectationsPerhaps the biggest draw for this meeting will be the anticipated vote on a proposed moratorium on property owners removing any tree above a certain diameter without City permission and an onerous fine. Though I understand there may be some amendments, the current proposal would allow the removal of only "dead, diseased, or dangerous" trees. The background motivation is that some Big Developers removed some trees, so therefore every small property owner must be penalized or prevented from making difficult choices about how to manage their property. I’m still hoping that some wisdom may emerge from this hopelessly politicized travesty, but I expect to be disappointed. I suppose I should start getting used to it because this group of nine city councillors may continue to disappoint as the year progresses as they set the stage for the November municipal election. The script is basically to declare an emergency and then use it to justify loss of freedom and flexibility. Sound familiar? Here are the relevant items:

Unfinished Business #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Jan 9, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection” to amend section 8.66.40 entitled “Applicability” and by adding a new section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for other projects.” THE QUESTION COMES ON PASSAGE TO BE ORDAINED ON OR AFTER FEB 18, 2019.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 14, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal code to amend Chapter 8.66 entitled “Tree Protection”: in section 8.66.055 entitled “Procedure for Other Significant Tree Removals”.


Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-105, regarding the feasibility of placing a condition in the public bidding documents prohibiting municipal contractors from displaying any signage other than company makers and contact information on vehicles. [City Solicitor’s Response]

If you recall, this requested legal analysis stems from that rather shallow reaction by some city councillors some months ago to a construction vehicle that carried a political message not to their liking. The City Solicitor’s response confirms what everyone surely must have known when this Order was filed. Free speech may not always be what you want to hear, but it is protected. That’s what has long been Great about America.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $600,000 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures, to be used for shoreline and landscape improvements at Magazine Beach.

This continues to be one of the most refreshing collaborations in recent memory between local residents, their City and State government, and the Mass. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation (DCR). There will, of course, be hundreds of pages of gibberish filed by our local "Goose Guy" accusing all parties of every sort of malfeasance. Free speech, you know.

Applications & Petitions #4. A Zoning Petition has been received from the residents of the City of Cambridge requesting that the City Council amend Chapter 8.16 "Noise Control" of the Cambridge Municipal Code. [They are proposing an outright ban on leaf blowers.]

I suppose regulating leaf blowers just wasn’t enough for some people. It’s got to be a ban. There is a Cambridge subculture that really must be modeling their behavior on Boston’s old Watch & Ward Society. Will books be next on the list of Things to be Banned? I’m already expecting to have the future Climate Police one day impound by gas-fired boiler and the internal combustion engine from my VW Bus. Please don’t tell them that I also eat meat.

Resolution #5. Resolution on the death of Paula Sharaga.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Carlone

I knew Paula and considered her one of the most likable politically active people I have met in years. I don’t have the words to say just how much of a tragedy this was and how much of a shock it was to hear the news of her death while she was bicycling in the Fenway area.

Resolution #7. Appreciation for Red Mitchell.   Councillor Simmons

I want to join with Councillor Simmons in this appreciation. Red is a wonderful guy and a scholar of history. He and I will have to one day soon take a trip down to the Adams Homestead in Quincy, MA to indulge our shared interests.

Order #1. City Council opposition to MBTA Fare Increase Proposal.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon

I was looking for the clause in this Order with suggestions for other funding mechanisms for the MBTA. I’ll keep looking. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department on a process for establishing a formal, thorough review of the City’s Affordable Home Ownership programs, incorporating a plan for obtaining and analyzing substantial quantitative data inclusive of all types of units.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

I suppose the requested information may prove interesting, but the whole concept strikes me as somewhat artificial. If you don’t really have the freedom to do with your property as you see fit (within the bounds of applicable zoning), is it really yours?

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City department to discuss the feasibility of allowing small businesses to host live acoustic music performances without a license, and if feasible, present the City Council with a proposal to allow such performances.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon, Mayor McGovern

The requirement of a license simply gives the City (and abutters) some recourse in the event that problems or abuses arise. Perhaps a better idea would be to establish a very simple and very inexpensive (maybe even free) licensing procedure for acoustic music performances. Maybe even have it be an over-the-counter transaction where you simply pick up the list of expectations with the license and we simply trust that they’ll be followed.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and any other relevant City departments to amend the Zoning Ordinance “Table of Uses” to allow for lodging houses in Residential A1, A2, and B Zoning Districts and to determine what tax incentives could be utilized to assist in the conversion of single-family/multi-family houses into lodging houses.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Siddiqui, Mayor McGovern

I think this could be a good thing that might provide some housing opportunities. The truth is that some people in these districts have been taking in boarders for ages. No whistle, no foul. I don’t see the harm even if the whole building is given over to such a use – as long as a resident manager is required to live in the building and keep an eye on things. This idea is a lot better than some other proposals currently being considered, e.g. the "Affordable Housing Overlay".

Order #9. City Council support of retirement fund fossil fuel divestment bill.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

There is something unsettling about city councillors dictating conditions on how public employees’ pension money should be invested. I can certainly understand the City Council appealing to a retirement board to factor in the potentially negative consequences of their investment choices, but instructing them where they can and cannot invest those funds is a bit of an overreach. How would the City Council feel if the Retirement Board made recommendations about City Council salary and benefits?

Order #10. That the City Manager provide the City Council with information that is offered to limited equity condominium owners regarding the ability to recoup extraordinary repair and maintenance costs, the procedure that is in place to inform purchasers of existing or possible construction and maintenance issues that may result in higher-than expected condo fees, and the possibility of allowing roommates to cover unexpected expenses.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Simmons, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Toomey

In an ideal world, limited equity condominium arrangements should be independent of City agencies. The fact that this Order is being filed only highlights the shortcomings of having the City play an oversized role in the affairs of such buildings. If questions of "the ability of owners of limited equity condominiums to recoup extraordinary repair and maintenance costs" even have to be asked, then maybe the real question should be about the sustainability of this kind of housing model. The order also asks about "the possibility of allowing limited equity owners to have roommates to allow them to cover these sorts of unexpected expenses". If you don’t have the right to take in roommates to help cover your expenses, then you don’t really own anything. This is more like "pretend ownership".

Order #13. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the Economic Development Department on expediting zoning based on the 2015 Commercial Land Use Classification Study and exploring the feasibility of hiring more zoning planners.   Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I still fail to see why this has taken so long. When we reach the point where a City Council order is filed suggesting how a City department should be managed and how many people should be hired, then something has gone terribly wrong. I haven’t seen any City Council orders lately offering managerial advice to the Department of Public Works or the Department of Human Service Programs.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to provide the City Council with information regarding accessory dwelling units.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Feb 5, 2019 to discuss the petition filed by the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinances in Section 4.22 to allow for a special permit for the alteration of a single, two-family or accessory structure in existence as of January 2019.

I think there are definitely more opportunities out there for accessory dwelling units as a good way to provide housing and flexibility. The recent hearing on this topic seemed to produce more questions than answers. This Order is an attempt to address some of the questions raised. – Robert Winters

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